Gwillim whispered. “I am so ashamed and embarrassed.”
“You should be,” Urien said. “If you were in my brigade I would have you whipped.”
“Easy.” Uwaine said.
“No need to be so harsh,” Gerraint said. “We are all exhausted and on edge. There is nothing here that cannot be fixed.”
“It’s a nice day,” Trevor added. “Maybe the weather is turning in our favor.” Urien said no more.
The next morning, however, though the craft got repaired, the rain and wind returned just as before. Gwillim, not especially a religious soul, nevertheless spent the day in prayer. He said it couldn’t hurt. Trevor, once again had his hands full with the fire and trying to keep them fed. Urien walked off to sit beneath a tree and sulk. Gerraint nearly had enough, but Uwaine calmed him with his words.
“He can’t make it rain forever,” he said. “I’m thirty-four, and God willing, I will live another thirty-four years. At some point in those years, it will have to stop raining.”
Gerraint nodded. “When it starts snowing,” he said, but he kept his seat.
The rain fell away again when it became too late to attempt the crossing. That evening over supper only Urien spoke, and only one sentence. “Obviously, the god has not accepted our pledge to give up seeking the cauldron.”
Gerraint did not respond, but he did think, that depends on how sincere the pledge was. The gods read men deeper than men suppose.
Gerraint went on watch when he noticed the sea shifting. It appeared a clear, cloudless night. The stars shone bright since the moon set, but Gerraint had no illusions. By morning, he knew the clouds could easily return with the rains and wind, and this might indeed go on until the snows came.
The sea began to billow then, like a cauldron beginning to boil. The foam beat up even though the wind died down. A figure rose slowly out of the deep. It appeared to be the figure of a man, who glowed with moon glow and walked toward Gerraint, directly across the water. The man looked to be a giant at first, but as he came to shore he slowly shrank until he stood no taller than Gerraint himself. Gerraint stood, out of respect, but he had a thing or two to say.
“Why are you picking on these good men?” he asked.
“They would-be thieves,” the glowing man answered plainly. He stared at Gerraint and Gerraint stared back at a man who had brown hair and green eyes and skin a bit too much on the pink side, like a half-cooked lobster. The man appeared clothed in seaweed and there seemed an ominous sense about him.
“Thank you for guarding the Celtic Treasures, but all here have pledged not to pursue them any longer,” Gerraint said. “With your leave, we will go now and not come back.”
The man from the sea squinted. “Mother?”
“Of course, Manannan. Didn’t you wonder?”
Manannan changed with that realization. His frightening presence became tempered with the depths of love and hope. “I knew I could not read your mind and heart like these others.”
“Guilty by association.” Gerraint shook his head. “All the same, we have pledged in the witness of each other not to pursue the treasures.”
“You never pledged.” Gerraint heard Urien’s voice behind him. They were all awake by then, watching.
“The treasures belong to her, or him, most of all,” Manannan said with a scowl returned to his lips. “This quiet one I don’t mind. He is loyal to you,” Manannan went on and talked to Gerraint as if the others were not even there. “And these two fools I do not doubt. The one is a soldier gone fat, thinking himself a ship’s captain as almost a joke. The other is a cook who fancies a desire for the sea. Let the first go back to soldiering and the second go to cooking or neither will ever be happy. But as for this one.” Manannan growled. The men behind Gerraint trembled. The growl of an angry god is the second most frightful thing in all creation. “This Raven is a liar, simple. He will try again. His pledge is not worth the air with which it was spoken. But the way to Avalon is denied to him and to seek it will be to seek his own death.”
“Then let me pledge to you, if Urien tries again to pursue the treasures, I will kill him myself. Will this satisfy you?” Gerraint spoke perfectly serious and Manannan gave it serious thought.
“Gerraint!” Gwillim sounded shocked by the turn of events.
“Still the word of a mortal of uncertain future,” Manannan concluded.
Gerraint had no option, and Danna felt very anxious in his heart. Gerraint sighed as he went away and Danna traveled over 3700 years to stand in his place. She took two quick steps forward and laid her hand gently against Manannan’s cheek. He lowered his head and eyes.
“I will make the pledge,” she said. “Only let these men go.” She stroked his cheek for a minute. “I worry about you. You and Rhiannon. You should not be here. Why have you not gone over to the other side?”
“I don’t know, Mother,” he said quietly. “But I am not the only one.”
“I have already spoken to Rhiannon,” Danna said. “But the time for us is past.”
She reached out and hugged the God. “Iona will soon turn to the way and you will not receive the answer there you seek. Only do not put your hopes against the words of one man.” Danna backed up. She felt a tear in her eye. She left, and Gerraint came home.
“Well, son?” Forty-seven-year-old Gerraint spoke as he might to Bedivere, his twenty-year-old squire. “Can we have safe passage in the morning?”
Manannan no longer stood there.
Gerraint turned around. “My watch,” Uwaine said as he got up to stand by the boat. Gerraint stepped over to lie down and Urien and Trevor both made an effort to move away.
“We will see what tomorrow is like,” Gerraint said.
“Yes,” Gwillim said. “We will see if a whole day in prayer has any effect. What was that, anyway, some sort of mass vision?” Gerraint did not hear what else Gwillim had to say as he went to sleep.